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Eidolon

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John walked through the 'gate relieved to see Carson and a med team waiting for them. About half way back to the stargate, Rodney had opened his eyes and looked around with a puzzled look on his face. John had tried talking to him to keep him awake longer, but Rodney only stared at him for a few moments before closing his eyes again.

"Just keep right on going with him, lads," Carson said as he stepped up to the stretcher and reached out for Rodney's uninjured arm.

"Don't," John said as he tried to stop Carson and hold onto the stretcher at the same time. "Check at his neck. Trust me," he added when Beckett gave him a look.

Carson glanced at Rodney's bandaged arm and nodded even as he reached for the pulse-point at his throat.

They entered the infirmary and set the stretcher down on the nearest bed. "Sharon, let's get the diagnostic scanner set up. Find out what we're dealing with," Carson ordered.

Thompson stepped back from the bed and gave John a nod before heading over to get checked by one of the other doctors. John stood next to Rodney's bed, watching the medical teams bustle back and forth setting up the hood, flexing his hands, trying to get the feeling restored in his fingers.

"He was bitten by this … creature," John explained pointing to the bandaged arm.

Carson nodded and glanced at the bandage as Sharon and another nurse moved the Ancient diagnostic scanner into place over Rodney's bed.

"He said something about venom and seeing things," John added, the worry clear in his tone.

Carson frowned at the word venom. "Get a blood sample," he ordered the nurse standing at his side as he started unwrapping the bandage. "Major? What is this?" Carson asked, pointing at the green, sticky mess on Rodney's arm.

"I couldn't get the bleeding to stop," John told him. "He soaked through two pressure bandages in less than an hour. Teyla suggested we try a plant she knew of that would get it to stop." John glanced down at Rodney's arm. "It worked."

Carson nodded as he picked at the plant matter with a fingernail. "Take samples of that as well," he requested to the woman standing across from him drawing blood from Rodney's other arm.

"Carson?" John asked, his question clear in his tone.

"I need to know what I'm dealing with first, Major. Especially if there's some sort of poison running through his system." Carson gave him a sympathetic glance. "Get yourself and the rest of your team checked out. Get cleaned up and a good meal inside you and I should have something to tell you in a couple of hours. The blood work will take at least that long to get the results back."

John knew it would do no good to push, and after one last check of Rodney, seemingly asleep, he allowed one of the nurses to lead him to another bed on the other side of the infirmary.

"Any news," Ford asked from the next bed as John was checked over.

Sheppard shook his head. "Carson needs to run tests. He'll know more in a few hours."

Ford glanced at the other side of the infirmary as Sharon set up a privacy curtain. John followed his gaze and watched several shadows move back and forth across the screen as Carson's team worked to figure out what had happened to Rodney. He could distinguish Carson's shadow from the others surrounding the bed, he could even see when the diagnostic hood started to slowly move back and forth over the bed. Everything seemed under control behind the curtain, people moved with calm purpose and there was none of the clipped orders or alarms from machines that John usually associated with serious emergencies.

John barely paid attention to the doctor giving him his post-mission physical. He answered the doctor's questions mechanically, his mind still trying to sort through everything that house and the Eidolon had done to his people. He'd been shocked to learn they'd been on Eidolon for more than a day. No wonder McKay had had the shakes by the time he'd found him, John thought to himself. It didn't seem like that much time had passed inside the house, but since all of their watches had mysteriously stopped, he was forced to take the nurse's word for it when she told him.

The more he thought about the house and Rodney, the angrier he became. The Eidolon had planned to kill all of them, and it acted as if it would enjoy it. A plan started to form of what he needed to do to make sure what happened to them never happened to anyone else who visited that planet in the future.

John left the infirmary once he was given the all clear and headed back to his quarters for a shower and change of clothes before meeting Teyla and Ford. He entered the mess hall, grabbed a tray and started through the food line, grabbing a few items at random as well as a cup of coffee. He waited for Teyla and Ford to get through the line and led the way over to their usual table by the windows, forcing himself to sit through the meal and actually eat the food he'd selected.

"I am sure Doctor McKay will be fine," Teyla told him softly as he picked at the brown patty-like thing on his plate. "Doctor Beckett would have sent for you if there were serious complications."

John nodded and ate a few more bites. His stomach wasn't really in the mood to accept the mystery meat, even as he told himself he needed to eat something.

"Besides, you'd know if something was really wrong, wouldn't you, sir?" Ford asked innocently as he speared a few of the long yellow vegetables on his plate.

John smiled slightly as Teyla frowned at Ford. "I've already talked to Teyla about that," he said. "All I get is the itchy, tingling feeling if he's hurting. I can't read McKay's mind."

"And do you feel anything is different?" Teyla asked patiently as she finished her soup.

"No," John admitted after a moment. "The itch is still there, but it's not any worse."

Teyla nodded. "In that case, you will have time to finish your meal and Doctor Beckett will have time to finish his tests."

John heroically waited another fifteen minutes before he gave up all pretext of eating and led the way back to the infirmary with Teyla and Ford in tow. John entered and found Carson in his office, calmly sorting through papers and making notes in a computer file.

"Ahh, Major," Carson greeted him with a smile and stood. "Teyla. Lieutenant," he added with a nod. "I wondered when you lot would turn up."

"How is he?" John asked bluntly, cutting across the pleasantries. He was tired and worried and just wanted to know if Rodney was going to recover.

Beckett stood his ground in the face of John's sour attitude. "If Rodney were in a bad way, do you really think I'd be calmly sitting in my office waiting for you?" he asked seriously.

Sheppard faced him down for a few more seconds before he ducked his head and looked away. "No, I guess not," John replied his tone still tired and worried and also slightly apologetic.

"What sort of friend to you take me for, anyway," Beckett grumbled as he led the way to the far corner of the infirmary. "You're not the only person who worries about him, you know."

John tapped Carson on the shoulder as they walked. "Sorry," he said sincerely when Beckett glanced over at him. "It's been a long day."

Beckett smiled his own apology. "Aye, lad, so it has."

Even with Carson's assurance Rodney was on the mend, John frowned when he saw McKay lying in the infirmary bed, a pair of IVs going into one hand and another line for a blood transfusion leading to his other arm. His left forearm was heavily bandaged and John was relieved he didn't see any spotting. His color was still off, though, not much different from the white set of scrubs he was wearing.

"His blood sugar was low, not surprising considering the amount of time you were missing. And he's a bit dehydrated," Carson explained.

"How bad was the blood loss?" John asked eyeing the bandaged arm.

Beckett pursed his lips. "Bad enough, but he should bounce back with the transfusion." He turned to Teyla. "That was a good job with the yarrow, lass."

"I thought that's what it was," Ford said with a smile.

"And the rest," John asked, not sure he wanted to know about whatever poison was running through Rodney's system.

"There are a few unknown chemicals still in his bloodstream," Carson admitted.

John felt his heart speed up at the news his fears were confirmed.

"But his body seems to be breaking them down easily enough," Carson hurried to add.

"That's the venom he mentioned?" John asked as he casually dragged a chair over to the bed.

"Aye, probably. One of them, we think, mimics a psychedelic hallucinogen. One of the others was probably the agent that kept his blood from clotting. My guess is this creature used the venom to overwhelm his victims with certain memories or emotions. I'm sure you don't need me to explain the anticoagulant."

John nodded. "Rodney said he'd seen things, but he didn't say what. The Eidolon also said it could sense various chemicals in his blood. From what Rodney was able to tell me, I got the impression it drugged its victims in order to trigger certain emotional responses."

"That would make sense," Beckett replied. "Hormones such as adrenaline will flood the bloodstream with the correct stimulus."

"So what do we do to get rid of it?" John asked.

"Nothing really. Rodney's body is slowly breaking down the chemicals of the venom, for lack of a better term, both the hallucinogen and whatever the anticoagulant was. We'll recheck the numbers in a few hours and get an idea of how long it will take for the venom to clear his system completely."

"He will recover?" Teyla asked.

"Aye," Carson replied with a smile. "The transfusion will take care of the blood loss from those bites, and he seems to be clotting now. The bites will take some time to heal, no way to really suture them, we'll just have to give them time, but he should be back to his normal self in a few days."

John saw the tension in his teammates dissipate at Beckett's prognosis. He sagged a bit in the chair then said, "Thanks, Carson."

"You're welcome, lad."

John rubbed absently at the back of his head as he turned back to the bed, missing the slight frown on Beckett's face as Carson walked away.

"We'll come back in the morning, sir," Ford said, taking a step away from the bed.

John nodded. "Someone needs to be with him. After everything that Eidolon thing did, he's going to be confused when he wakes up."

"That will not be a problem, John," Teyla told him joining Ford at the end of the bed. "You need to get some rest yourself, do not forget."

John waited until Ford and Teyla left and settled back in the chair, watching Rodney sleep. He seemed peaceful enough, no nightmares at least, and he didn't have the pinched, in pain, look around his eyes anymore. John rubbed his head with one hand and finally allowed himself to relax.

Beckett came back with a paper cup and a glass of water. "I imagine your head must be aching after all of this," he said softly as he handed the pills and water to John. "And don't be getting too comfortable in that chair, either, Major. You said yourself, it's been a long day. You need proper rest, in a bed, mind. Rodney won't be going anywhere for a few days at least. I'll need your help to keep him occupied once he's awake."

John swallowed the pills and water without complaint and smiled slightly at Carson's last statement. He was almost looking forward to dealing with a bored genius. It would mean Rodney was getting back to his normal self, something he hadn't seen since their return from the disastrous trip to the satellite. Had that only been a week ago? he wondered.

John studied Rodney's sleeping form for a few more seconds. "You're sure he's not going to wake up?" John asked. "What that creature did to him had him a bit freaked out trying to figure out what was real. I don't want him waking up alone. One of us needs to be here."

"I promise you, Major, he's going to sleep the rest of the day and through the night. I'll leave word with the nurses that if it looks like he's coming around sooner, to send for me and I'll let you know."

John shifted his concentrated look from Rodney to Carson. After a moment he nodded and stood. "You'll call me?"

Beckett smiled. "I promise."

John turned back to the bed, grasped Rodney's arm gently and whispered, "You're safe now, buddy. I'll be back later to check on you." He gave the arm one last squeeze and headed for the door. Before he went to bed, there was something he needed to discuss with Elizabeth.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Elizabeth stood on the balcony outside her office enjoying the view of the ocean as she sipped a cup of coffee. It had been a tense day when John's team had failed to report in. Two other teams had been sent to the planet over the course of the day looking for them. However, since none of them knew exactly where the building was they were supposed to be investigating, the search had stalled. Then Sergeant Jeffries had radioed with the news they had found Teyla and Sergeant Markham was hoping to find Sheppard and the others soon.

She let the coffee cup warm her hands as she watched the water. When Jeffries had radioed in the rest of Sheppard's team had been found, alive, Elizabeth let her relief show to Grodin and the techs in the control room even as she requested Carson be in the gateroom when they returned as a precaution. John and the others had been missing for more than a day. She wasn't so naïve as to think there would be no injuries, but she was not prepared to see John and Thompson carrying Rodney home on a stretcher or to hear he'd been poisoned.

She heard someone knocking on the office door and turned to wave through the glass at John to join her.

"You look exhausted," she told him frankly as he stepped out onto the balcony. "Why do I get the feeling if I were to call Carson he would tell me you're supposed to be in bed?"

John shrugged. "I needed to talk to you about something first."

"Is Rodney all right? I meant to get down to see him."

"He's fine." John paused. "He'll be fine," he amended. "Once the venom that thing pumped into him is out of his system. He's sleeping. Carson thinks he'll be awake sometime tomorrow." John stared out at the water, his hands wrapped around the railing of the balcony so tight Elizabeth could see his knuckles turning white.

"John?" she asked. "What's happened?"

John turned to look at her and Elizabeth took a step back when she saw the combination of anger, concern, and determination in his eyes. "You mean other than being trapped in a maze disguised as a house, wondering how I was going to get my people out in one piece? Or maybe it was the part where one of my people was nearly killed by some sort of nightmare-inducing vampire? Or, after surviving all of that, after getting away from the house and the vampire, Rodney could have still bled to death before we got him back to Beckett. If Teyla hadn't thought of using that plant …" John's voice trailed off as he turned back to face the ocean.

Elizabeth laid a hand gently in his arm. She felt the barely contained anger in the strained muscles of his arm as he gripped the railing.

John ducked his head and loosened his grip. "Sorry," he mumbled with a sideways glance at her. "I didn't mean to unload on you like that."

Elizabeth opened the door to the balcony and motioned John to follow her. "I think I can let it pass. Maybe you should get some rest."

Once she was seated behind her desk and John slouched in one of the chairs, he said, "I want to go back to Eidolon," he told her, his expression hard.

Elizabeth sat back in her chair. Of all the things she might have expected John to say, proposing a trip back to Eidolon, after everything that had happened, was fairly low on her list. "Why?" she asked and tried to keep the concern out of her voice.

John pulled himself up so he sat straight in his chair and said in a formal voice, "Permission to take a jumper back through the 'gate and blow that house to whatever the Pegasus galaxy's version of Hell might be."

"John, we aren't in the revenge business," Elizabeth told him with a frown. "I understand how you feel about what happened to Rodney --"

"This isn't just about what happened to him," John interrupted with a scowl. "Teyla said the plants on that planet were medicinal. Hell, McKay may not even be here now if she hadn't found that woundwort, or yarrow, or whatever it was."

Elizabeth watched as John took a breath and worked to get his emotions back under control.

"People are afraid to go there and harvest the plants because of that house," he continued. "How many people has that thing trapped and fed upon in the last hundred years? The last thousand? Someone should do something about it and we're one of the few around here with the resources to succeed."

Elizabeth studied his face for several moments. "Let me think about it," she finally said and held up a hand when John tried to interrupt again. "We are new to this galaxy, John. We can't decide to take things into our own hands because we think it's right. Let me think about this, talk to a few people. I'll let you know tomorrow if you have a go."

John stood from his chair and turned toward the door. "We need to do something," he told her seriously then left the office.

Elizabeth looked down at her now cold coffee cup after John left. How much of John's request was based on altruism for the people in the Pegasus galaxy and how much was the combination of anger over Rodney's injuries and exhaustion? she wondered. And in the end, did it really matter? Either way, if she planned to wade into deep philosophical questions of right and wrong, she'd need more coffee.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

John fired again and again, but Gall wouldn't stop. No matter how many times Sheppard hit him, Brendan kept coming toward them. John dropped the Beretta and took a step back, even as Rodney saw Gall smile an evil, knowing smile.

"You cannot hurt me," Gall said. "I am eternal."

Rodney tried to help, he tried to get up off the floor and do something, anything, to help John, but it felt as if a great weight was holding him down and he was unable to move.

John gripped the P-90 clipped to his vest, raised it and started shooting again.

Gall laughed as the bullets seemed to bounce off of him. John fired until the P-90 ran out of ammunition, then he pulled out his combat knife.

Suddenly Gall was in front of John, grabbing his arm and prying the knife out of John's hand. "I told you Sheppard would not find you until it was too late," he said looking down at Rodney. "I think I will feed on him quickly," Gall continued. "You will never escape me. Unlike Sheppard, I plan to make my meal from you last as long as possible."

Gall pushed back the sleeve of John's jacket with one hand even as John continued to struggle in his hold. The look in Gall's eyes was almost feral as he grasped John's arm tightly, closed his eyes and grinned again as John started to scream.

"No!" Rodney yelled and tried to get up again, but something still held him down. "No! John!"

"John!" Rodney yelled again, and fought against whatever was restraining him, keeping him away from Sheppard.

"Rodney, you're all right," a voice said near his ear. "It's just a dream, lad. Come on, now, open your eyes."

Rodney continued to fight the hold on his arms oblivious to what the voice told him. Gall was killing John, he had to do something.

"It's just a dream," the voice said again. "You're all right. You need to calm down. Deep breaths, now."

Something about the voice finally penetrated and Rodney stopped struggling.

"That's it, deep breaths," the voice told him. "Think you could open your eyes? There are a fair few people who've been worried about you."

Rodney opened his eyes and found Beckett standing over his bed, pinning his arms to his sides. "You back with us now?" Carson asked as he let go of Rodney's upper arms.

Rodney nodded and looked around slightly confused. "Carson? Is this real?"

Carson frowned slightly. "Aye, lad. It's real, I promise you."

"As Doctor Beckett said, you are safe now."

Rodney glanced to his right and saw Teyla standing next to the chair near his bed, a concerned expression on her face. "Teyla? We got out of the house?"

She smiled at him and nodded as she handed him a cup of water. "We returned to Atlantis yesterday."

Rodney frowned. "I don't remember …" He drank the water slowly and handed back the cup.

"I'm not surprised," Beckett told him as he checked the monitors near Rodney's bed. "Between the foreign substance in your blood, not to mention the actual blood loss, you were in a bit of a fix when Major Sheppard got you back here."

Rodney felt his heart speed up as he searched the infirmary. No John in the chair next to the bed, or asleep in the bed next to his. It wasn't like John to not be there. Where was he? Did the Eidolon succeed in killing him? Carson said it was a dream, but was it really a memory of what had happened to Sheppard?

An alarm sounded from the machines near the bed.

"Where's John?" he demanded, looking from Beckett to Teyla.

"Rodney!" Carson said. "You need to calm down. Major Sheppard is just fine, I'm sure."

"You mean you don't know?" Rodney asked, ignoring the flare of pain in his arm as he tried to sit up.

"Major Sheppard returned to the planet this morning," Teyla told him hesitantly with a glance at Beckett.

"What? Why?" They escaped, why would John go back?

Neither Beckett nor Teyla answered him, they just exchanged another look and Rodney could tell they were worried about something.

"What's going on?" he demanded, glaring from one to the other. A dozen different things that could be wrong started playing in his head.

"Major Sheppard spoke to Doctor Weir last night about going back to Eidolon and …" Teyla hesitated.

"He took a jumper through the 'gate an hour ago and plans to destroy the building you were trapped in," Carson finished for her.

Rodney sank back onto the bed. "Elizabeth authorised that?" he whispered.

Teyla nodded. "Doctor Weir spoke to me last evening. John had gone to see her and requested permission to go back to Eidolon and destroy the house. She wanted to know the possible repercussions to Atlantis if she allowed him to go through with his plan. Would the people here in the Pegasus galaxy see such an action as the new inhabitants of Atlantis overstepping their authority." She smiled down at him. "I told her destroying the house and the creature inside it could only be seen as a good thing. It had hurt too many people over the years."

Rodney felt his eyes starting to droop and forced himself to stay awake. "You think what happened to us happened to that woman you told us about," Rodney said in a sleepy mumble.

Teyla gave him a tight smile. "Yes, I do," she replied sadly.

"Will you tell her?" Rodney asked around a yawn.

"Rhea died many years ago," she told him as she pulled the sheet and blanket up to cover him. "Go back to sleep. I'm sure John will be here when you wake again."

Rodney tried to nod even as he fell asleep.

"... his system. I'll take one last sample tonight and if everything is normal, I'll release him tomorrow morning."

"Teyla said he was having bad dreams," a second voice said.

"Aye, but I think that's from everything that happened, not from whatever that creature injected him with."

It took several seconds for Rodney to realise the conversation was real and not part of another dream.

"John?" Rodney mumbled.

Rodney felt a hand on his arm. "Right here, buddy. You open your eyes, you'll see that."

He pried his eyes open and found John seated in the chair Teyla had used earlier. John smiled at him. "See?"

"I'll leave you be," Carson said from the end of the bed. "Don't tire him out, Major."

Rodney watched Carson leave then tried to sit up.

"Here," John said and helped him readjust the bed. "Better?"

Rodney nodded. "Teyla told me you went back." He let the implied question hang.

John bent forward with his arms braced on his knees. "Yeah. I took Ford and a jumper."

Rodney frowned. "I thought you said a jumper wouldn't fit through the 'gate with all the trees?"

"I said it would be a challenge," John corrected with a slight smile. "And I was right, it wasn't easy. I may have scared a few years off Ford's life when we came through and kissed the tops of a couple of trees."

"You shouldn't have gone back," Rodney told him. "What if the Eidolon wasn't dead? It could have done something to the jumper and then what would you have done?"

John sat back in the chair and gave Rodney a once over. "It needed to be done," John said firmly. "That Eidolon had been terrorising the people here for who knows how long. Like I told Elizabeth, someone needed to do something about it."

"So you decided that someone had to be you?" Rodney asked with a scowl and picked at the bandage wrapped around his arm.

John frowned. "What are you so angry about?"

"You took a stupid risk," Rodney told him, trying not to think of the nightmare where John died defending him from Gall. "You didn't need to go back there out of some sort of revenge."

"It wasn't out of revenge," John said.

Rodney stared at him in disbelief.

"It wasn't just for revenge," John admitted with a shrug. "We have the tools to stop it and I convinced Elizabeth to let me."

"It was still a stupid risk," Rodney told him. "You could have died."

"Hey," John said and reached out to squeeze his arm. "I'm fine. Everything went to plan."

Rodney sighed then nodded. "The house is gone?" he asked. "You're sure?"

John withdrew his hand and smiled. "A pair of drones more than took care of it," he said. "I made a fly-over before we came back. There was nothing left in that clearing except some slightly scorched trees."

~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

John wandered the halls a few nights later searching for Rodney. McKay had been unusually quiet the last few days, no chewing out his scientists, even Kavanaugh seemed immune from McKay's temper. Teyla and Carson both thought it was a natural reaction to everything that happened on Eidolon, but John suspected it was something else. McKay hadn't really been himself since the trip out to the satellite. John had let things go at the time, but maybe it was time to find out why McKay felt so guilty over what happened in the Wraith ship.

He purposely waited until it was late and most everyone in the city was asleep. He had a good idea where he'd find Rodney that time of night and wasn't disappointed when he stopped outside the rec room and heard someone playing the electric keyboard. He shook his head when he recognised the same melancholy tune McKay had been playing after their return from the sand planet.

"I know you're there," Rodney eventually said. "You may as well come in and stop hovering in the doorway."

John accepted the backhanded invitation and found a crate to use as a chair. "Doesn't playing make your arm hurt?" he asked as he sat and leant back against the wall beside Rodney.

McKay shrugged. "It doesn't hurt that much anymore."

John sat and listened to Rodney play for a few minutes. When it became obvious he wasn't going to take the subtle hint to talk, John said, "So tell me what happened."

Rodney gave him a sideways look. "Tell you what happened when exactly?"

John tipped the crate forward and tapped Rodney's knee. "You know what I mean," he said. "Tell me what happened in the Wraith ship after I left you with Gall."

Rodney's fingers stuttered on the keys before he stopped playing and rested his hands in his lap.

"I know something about what happened is tearing you up," John said softly. "I really think you need to talk about it. If not to me then to someone. Height--"

Rodney shook his head. "No," he said. "I don't need or want to be psychoanalysed."

"Then will you talk to me?"

Rodney ducked his head. "It was my fault," he finally whispered.

John frowned. Gall had committed suicide. How did Rodney conflate that into it being his fault? he wondered.

Rodney looked over at John and he could see the misery in McKay's expression. "I kept telling him I was worried about you. Wondering what was happening, if you needed help. You told me to stay off the radio. Then you said you were hurt." His hands drifted back to the keyboard. "He told me I'd changed, that I was different from the man he knew before we came here."

"Maybe that's true," John admitted. "I didn't know you before all of this so I can't really say."

Rodney snorted. "If we ever make contact with Earth again, I'm sure Colonel Carter or General O'Neill would be more than happy to tell you what kind of person I was when they knew me."

"I still don't understand how what Gall did was your fault," John said gently. "He made a choice."

Rodney tried to stand but John held him in place with a gentle hand on his arm. "I told you. I was scared something had happened to you. But I told Brendan I wouldn't leave him if he couldn't move. That we don't leave people behind." He looked John in the eye. "I'd looked away, for just a second, to try and decide if I should call you on the radio or not. I didn't want to give you away to the Wraith if you were hiding." He looked down at his hands. "I was still trying to figure out what to do when … When he told me to go and save the day and then …"

John sat back on the crate. He could see where Rodney would get the idea it was his fault Gall had made the decision, but he didn't agree with the reasoning.

"Maybe it was my fault," John offered and waited for the reaction. He'd learnt a long time ago if he was going to win an argument with McKay it had to be based on logic.

Rodney's head shot up and he scowled at John. "Glad to know you're taking this so seriously," he growled.

John didn't take the bait. "I'm serious," he said calmly. "Very serious."

"You weren't even there, how was it your fault he shot himself?"

"Where did Gall get the gun?"

Rodney threw his hands in the air. "Gee, thanks for that reminder, Sheppard!"

"Where did he get the gun, Rodney?" John asked again calmly.

"I gave it to him!" Rodney shouted. "Happy now?"

John shook his head, his eyes serious. "Why did you give him a gun?"

Rodney gave him a frustrated look. "You told me to. You said it was in case you didn't come back."

"Exactly," John said. "You needed to be able to protect each other in case I didn't succeed."

"You mean in case the Wraith killed you."

"Gall simply took that idea to its logical conclusion," John said. "The best way he could protect you and me was to … do what he did. I wish there had been another way. I really do. More than that, I wish you hadn't had to witness it.

"But the truth is, just like with the Eidolon, I needed help. If Ford hadn't come when he did, we'd both be dead in that house right now." John tapped Rodney on the knee again. "If you hadn't come when you did, I would be dead and that Wraith would have killed both you and Gall anyway."

"So, you're saying he did the right thing?" Rodney asked.

John shook his head. "I'm saying he did the only thing he could do."

Rodney stared at him for a moment longer, then sighed softly. "Yeah, I guess he did." He stared down at his hand for several seconds then went back to playing.

John was relieved the tune was different. "That's the moon song, isn't it?" he asked a moment later as he recognised the song.

Rodney gave him a puzzled look even as his fingers tripped on a chord.

"You've played that one before," John explained with a smile. "Lunar something."

Rodney shook his head. "Lunar, really?" he asked and for the first time in a week or more, John thought he sounded like his normal self. "It's "Clair de Lune"."

"I was close," John replied defensively.

Rodney smiled. "I guess." He played through the piece and started over. "So," he said his tone dripping innocence, "does this mean Ford is off the hook?"

Now it was John's turn to give the puzzled look.

"You told him you were going to discuss his creative interpretation of orders. Knowing you, I assume through some form of physical penance. Since you just admitted he did the right thing, is he off the hook?"

John grinned as he leant back to listen to the music. "I'll think about it."

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

In a quiet clearing surrounded by trees in the full glory of Autumn, a house shimmered into existence. It looked like a ramshackle house constructed and then expanded over time with ivy covering most of its stone walls and strange writing on the wall near the large stone doors.

Anyone who had entered the house soon after it's reappearance would have found most of the rooms uninhabited, but the house was not empty. If the hapless traveller didn't turn and run, he would have heard a sound, as if dozens of small bits of metal were being carefully dropped, one by one, onto a hard surface. If the sound didn't persuade him to run for his life, he would have seen a strange metamorphosis as a few of the rooms suddenly shifted or changed. Furniture appeared in some of the rooms. The walls and floors were no longer bare.

"I am eternal," a voice cooed as it roamed the halls of the stone house. Waiting. Sooner or later someone would stumble upon the house and curiosity would lead him to enter. Then it would feed.

FIN